In its recent ruling on the Balochistan security case, the Supreme Court has also set certain criteria for the media with regard to its coverage of terrorism-related incidents. The court’s order also restrains the media from publishing or airing news items which can be construed to be glorifying terrorism.
While justifying the restriction, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Senator SM Zafar (counsel for the Frontier Corps in the case) had placed sufficient material on record which suggested that acts of terrorism were published in a way that they increased insecurity amongst the people of Balochistan.
Justice Chaudhry specifically mentioned reports regarding claims of responsibility for these attacks, on uniformed and civilian citizens, by different militant organisations.
Recently, such statements made by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been widely aired and published in electronic and print media about the attack on child activist Malala Yousafzai. The TTP took responsibility for the attempted target killing.
In another statement that was also picked up by the media, the TTP threatened to attack Malala again if she survived. The banned organisation also justified its barbaric act by citing an Islamic precedent in this regard. Though their claims were rejected by religious scholars, these statements received considerable coverage in the media.
Justice Chaudhry, who was heading a three-judge bench, noted in the order that provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 should be followed strictly both by the electronic and print media in this regard.
The court incorporated the provision in its judgment, which says: “A person commits an offence if he prints, publishes or disseminates any material, whether by audio or video-cassettes [FM radio station] or by written, photographic, electronic, digital, wall-chalking or any method which [glorifies terrorists or terrorist activities], incites religious, sectarian or ethnic hatred or gives projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act, or any person or organisation concerned in terrorism or proscribed organisation or an organisation placed under observation: Provided that a factual news report, made in good faith, shall not be construed to mean ‘projection’ for the purposes of this section”.
“We are told that in this behalf a restraint order has also been passed by the High Court of Balochistan; therefore, we confirm the order which has been passed by the High Court of Balochistan [so] that in future the above provision of law shall be followed strictly both by the electronic and print media,” read the judgment.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2012.
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